While planning out a rough draft of our itinerary, Chikamanguluru showed all the elements (on paper) of being a good place to spend some time. What we realized after a 4 day stay there was, that it is one of the best local getaways one can find in the region.
Route Taken & Rideability –
Honestly, this is one route, where I don’t even remember the names of the villages we passed through. The only thing I remember is it was blissful. By this time of the journey, the bug of avoiding Highways had bitten us, so we kept on getting lost in the deep countryside. Sure, we hit some really bad patches, but their effect seem to melt away with the peaceful landscape you are riding through, or better, you are part of.
About 70-80 km before Chikamaguluru, you start sighting isolated big mountains, hinting that you are entering the western ghats again. About 20km before the city, you start ascending a very gradual slope until a beautiful lake welcomes you in the Coffee land of Chikamaguluru.
We left Hampi around 9am in the morning. And after getting our Bike serviced in Hospet (the necessary company servicing) at around 12o’clock, we reached here a little after 6 o clock, covering something around 320km that day.
Scenic Factor & Weather – 4.5 / 5
The city of Chikamaguluru has nothing special in the conventional sense but I had a liking for the place from the moment we entered it. The roads here are wide and traffic is pretty sorted here. The weather was super pleasant when we were here (3rd week of Jan), that is no need of fans during the day and blankets more than enough during the night.
There western ghats starts just a few kilometers from the town, and huge mountains (including Mullayanagiri, the tallest peak in Karnataka) oversee Chikamagulu from Northwest side. In short, just start riding in mountains’ direction and you won’t stop smiling till you return back to rooms. Or perhaps longer.
The higher peaks are cold in the mornings and ate evenings, so take necessary precautions
And the roads that lead into these mountains make this place stand out completely. Huge coffee estates and spice plantations running alongside the road to lower mountains, and neverending meadows on the higher altitudes (like Baba Budhangiri) make the roads superbly enjoyable.
Budget – 5 / 5
A lot of budget rooms are available on the main IG Road. The rooms are decent and availability wasn’t an issue at our time.
Most of the these lodges / hotels have their own restaurants which have great food at very reasonable prices. Annapurna Cafe’s coffee and Town Canteen’s Butter Masala Dosa have developed legendary status among the town people for delivering lipsmacking taste at unbelievable prices. Do check them out.
We easily managed our 1000/day thing here.
Room – 400 / day.
Things to do – 4 / 5
First things first. On almost every hotel / restaurant of this town, a tourist map is available which they will be happy to give away to you in numbers. This brilliant map has been curated by locals and is gold mine for travellers like us, that is, who have no definite plan. Plus it helped a lot in navigating in an around the place.
Camp at Highest peak in Karnataka – Mullayangiri is quite popular as a trekking spot but I wonder why won’t these trekkers stay here for the night. The town’s view from the top is beautiful. The sunset & sunrise are amazing. Plus no danger of animals here (the peak is on the outer edge of Ghats, and hence is not a place infested with wild animals).
Ride to Muthodi Forest – Well, don’t expect much with the forest here, but the ride to this place is amazing. As the jungle keeps on growing denser, the road gets narrower giving an eerie touch to the place. The forest itself is reserved by the Forest Department and doesn’t have much to offer. I had read in some blog that the stream (open for general tourists) is a good photographers attraction, but I didn’t find anything of that sort. Although , We found small temple with a very strange story 🙂
Baba Budhangiri – This place deserves a special mention. In my opinion the route (please note, the route and not the destination) to Baba Budhan giri & the waterfall nearby, are by far the best in Chikamanguluru. I might be getting a little audacious in saying this but the huge meadows stretches in these routes actually beat the best ones in Uttarakhand or Himachal Pradesh. (yes, I said it). Plus these are good camping sites too with the last good food available at dhabas near the taxi stand for Baba Budhangiri (about 5km from both the places).
Local Spices – On these higher peaks, you will see spice stalls selling some of the rarest spices on earth. If not interested in buying them, at least try sniffing / tasting / applying on your skin and you will have sensations you have never had in your life. For example, they have this cool hair oil which is like 10 times colder than Navaratna Thanda oil. Or try a small piece of Meswak, the one they use in toothpaste and you will feel funny in your mouth for half an hour.
Coffee Estates Homestays – You will find coffee estates on all the routes leading to the mountains. Most of these have homestays options available which, I think, are a great experience. First, these are generally 50-250 acre lands of dense spice plantations wandering where is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. Second, most of the owners generally live in these estates, so chatting up with them is enlightening and is a great way of eating up time. Third, you get delicious home cooked food.
These are a little harsh on the pocket, but well worth it. Expect something like a 2000 per day for a room including breakfast, lunch & dinner (for 2 people).
Overall, we were more than impressed by Chikamaguluru and now with a brilliant streak of Badami, Hampi & now Chikamaguluru, we had an impression that disappointment cannot find us now. Well, what did we know.
Summary of south India bike tour